While obesity is the 21st century curse, for people who watch their weight, eat sensibly and pay attention to their bodies, then there is no reason why they cannot stay active throughout their lives.
Staying active for longerWhat we are seeing in the health and fitness industry is a rise in the number of people in their 50s, 60, 70s and even older regularly taking part in strenuous, lung-busting activities. No longer do we see people hitting their 40s and thinking “that’s it, I’m going to take it easy for the rest of my life.” No, the silver generation are playing football, they are regular, fiercely competitive squash addicts, they run for hours on the treadmill, they energetically lead the way in the spinning classes and they take part in exercise classes such as boot camp.
And this all makes sense. The old adage “use it or lose it” applies to muscles, bone strength and cardiovascular fitness. Once we hit 40, we begin to suffer a decrease in muscle strength and bone density. This is why, as we get older, we break bones more easily. By exercising regularly, particularly doing weight bearing exercises, then the loss of muscle mass can be slowed.
Fighting diseaseThere is also heaps of evidence showing that exercise will reduce the impact of chronic disease and illness. Exercise improves the immune system, keeps your heart healthy and helps reduce blood pressure. People who exercise regularly also have a lowered risk of several conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis and certain cancers.
The other huge benefit of regular exercise is it helps you maintain mobility and flexibility. By taking part in exercise, you will maintain or improve your posture, strength, flexibility and this will help maintain good balance and coordination. In turn this reduces the risks of falls and bone breaks.
Throw in the feel good factor that you get from exercise, being outdoors, socialising with others and being part of a group, and you can see why physical activity should be high on everyone's agenda.
Listen to your bodyAs with anyone doing physical activity, there are some cautionary words.
If you haven’t done much strenuous activity for a while, then do seek medical advice before embarking on a new fitness programme. If you have any pre-existing conditions, then ask what exercise is recommended for you.
- Start slow. There is no limit to what you can achieve, but don’t throw yourself into a new activity too fast, you will merely end up injured or ill.
- Build up your fitness little by little, and don't be worried about taking a break or taking the easier exercise option when you need to. Your boot camp instructor will be on hand to observe and advise, but do ask if you are unsure that you should be doing a particular exercise.
- Set yourself short-term goals. This will help you stay motivated. If you are a beginner to exercise and you say you want to run a marathon in six months time, the chances are you will not attain that goal. If you aim to run in a five kilometre park run in a month, that is far more attainable and you will feel great when you achieve that goal.
Remember: Age is no barrier.